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Feds want cash back from jobs agency

FEDERAL OFFICIALS want money wrongly spent by a regional employment service paid back.

But the dollar value contained in allegations of ineligible expenditures made against the Skeena Native Development Society (SNDS) isn’t known and repayment details have yet to be worked out.

News of ineligible expenditures came two weeks ago when Human Resources and Skills Development Canada said it would not be renewing a long-standing contract with SNDS.

The society was formed more than 17 years ago to provide aboriginal job training and employment services in the northwest under contract from the federal government.

The current contract ends March 31 and federal officials are actively looking for a replacement agency.

According to the latest figures available, SNDS received $6.8 million for the 2009-2010 fiscal year from the federal government.

“The total amount of ineligible expenses will be determined after the agreement is closed,” a statement from HRSDC officials in Ottawa indicated last week.

“A repayment plan will be negotiated with SNDS. HRSDC cannot comment on the details of any repayment until all of the proper administrative procedures have been completed.

“Final reports are to be provided to HRSDC with 120 days following the close of the agreement,” the statement continued.

There’s no detail available yet on what kind of ineligible expenses were uncovered.

Federal officials did say examples could include wages for mentors of those receiving employment assistance, costs connected with money raising activities or buying land and buildings.

They said the expenditures were uncovered during a routine monitoring of payment claims and that the ineligible expenditures were claimed in the last year of the agreement.

Federal officials also said they weren’t going to renew the SNDS contract because it served too few eligible clients.

But the officials said it was too early to indicate the exact number of clients signed up by SNDS.

“We will determine the exact number once the final reports are submitted and finalized,” federal officials said.

In the meantime, SNDS president Marjorie McRae from Hazelton said the agency has “worked diligently to meet the requirements of the federal government.”

She said the agency was told Jan. 26 of the decision not to renew.

“We have not been given the courtesy to meet with the Board of Directors or the staff to properly inform them and to prepare for the transition. It behooves us to understand why we could not jointly have made the announcement and we are deeply sorry for the confusion and concern this announcement will cause,” said McRae in the statement.

She said SNDS would work closely with the new agency so to ensure a smooth transition.

In an earlier statement posted to the SNDS website, McRae said it had been striving to meet requirements for accountability and to build relationships with the private sector.

The society works out of offices at Kitsumkalum.

It offers wage subsidies and financial assistance for training programs among other services. Agreements were also struck with two unions.

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